Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: January 24

Labour leader David Shearer and deputy leader Grant Robertson, left, are escorted onto the Ratana Pa Marae near Whanganui. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour leader David Shearer and deputy leader Grant Robertson, left, are escorted onto the Ratana Pa Marae near Whanganui. Photo / Mark Mitchell

As well as altering the geological faultlines, the Christchurch earthquakes appear to have shaken up the local political contours. As divisions within the Christchurch City Council become increasingly heated and bitter, the Political Scientist blog has an interesting analysis of the changing political factions - see: Communication Breakdown?. This in-depth and informed post argues that the ideological friction goes well beyond the normal left-right divide, particularly as one of the most outspoken councillors, Tim Carter, is part of a long-standing political dynasty in Canterbury (which includes former regional and local councillors and current agriculture minister David Carter). The family has extensive land and property development interests in the area. Christchurch mayor Bob Parker appears to have got offside with both the left and the right on the council.

In an interesting twist, councillor Sue Wells, a long-time supporter of Parker and CEO Tony Marryatt, is now raising the possibility of commissioners replacing the entire council - see: RNZ's Council being torn apart says Christchurch mayor. Local Government minister Nick Smith appears to be ruling that out at this stage, but whether it's a bluff or a real possibility the ructions have David Farrar calling for resignations - see: Some or all must go.

This dysfunctional nature in Canterbury extends, it seems, to the Earthquake Commission (EQC), and today's Press editorial responds directly to criticism by the EQC - see: EQC's public image.

While acknowledging the truly massive task at house, the Press is confident their reporting of EQC and the Council represents genuine and widespread concern amongst affected residents.

The annual Ratana spectacle is in full swing today, with particular interest as David Shearer makes his first visit as Labour leader. While most journalists do actually question how much political influence the Ratana church has today, everyone turns up regardless. Blogger and Maori politics specialist, Morgan Godfery is clearly skeptical, saying that 'the year NZ First swept the Maori seats, marked the end of the Ratana Church holding the casting vote in the Maori electorates' - see: Godfery's Ratana fawning begins. Both Ratana communications manager Wayne Johnston and even Shearer himself acknowledge this reality - see: Kate Chapman and Danya Levy's Shearer to woo Ratana.

So why do the Ratana celebrations get taken so seriously by the media and politicians? In large part it's more about the need for journalists to fill political columns and politicians needs to be seen on TV, than real political significance. As the first major political event (with pictures) each year, and coming after a lengthy summer news drought, it merely helps fill a vacuum and kick the political year off.

It does raise the question of how much influence ethnic and religious groups have over voters in modern politics. Ratana, along with Pacifica church groups, have traditionally been seen to be able to 'deliver' votes to political parties, but there is little evidence that this is still actually the case.

Criticism of NZ on Air continues, with Bryan Gould linking the child poverty documentary controversy with the criminal complaint over the tea tapes by the Prime Minister, warning of political censorship - see: Insidious attacks on press freedom. The controversy looks set to roll on as John Drinnan reports that the National Party office holder at the centre of it all - Stephen McElrea - is looking to be appointed Chair or Deputy Chair of the agency - see: National man eyes NZ On Air chair. However, there also appears to be a strong chance that McElrea will actually be removed entirely from the quango as a result of this minor scandal.

With the death of the Stratos TV channel and the imminent demise of TVNZ7, Peter Thompson, a senior lecturer in media studies, has an innovative proposal to fund a true public service channel and increase the funding available for local production - see: Viewer choice sacrificed to commercialism.

Also in the area of media and politics, Claire Trevett details a number of election year voices that were quashed by the Electoral Commission in her article Banks blocked from using Key's name. The various non-partisan groups prevented - or at least inconvenienced - from promoting their political opinions during the election campaign included The New Zealand Education Institute, the Save TVNZ 7 group, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and the environmental group The Renewables. It's as if the Electoral Finance Act was never abolished.

Other items of interest today include James Murray's look at the implications of the Trans-Pacific partnership, particularly as it relates to copyright and patents and the effect it may have on access to New Zealand culture and cheaper medicines - The TPP and what it could mean for you. This is very relevant in light of the massive police mobilisation on the behalf of American copyright holders, which Russell Brown addresses in The Mega Conspiracy.

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Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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